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FULL TRANSCRIPT: Sunderland boss Chris Coleman on potential relegation & why Lewis Grabban left

Chris Coleman has been speaking today to the media ahead of tomorrow’s game with Aston Villa about a whole host of things, including what happened when Lewis Grabban left, relegation and Steve Bruce - here is that conversation in full.

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On the Squad After the Weekend...

Alright - good today the boys, we were in yesterday for a little recovery session and the lads who weren’t involved did a training session. In again today, OK, alright, bubbly. Got to stay positive, but they were alright, fine, no dramas.

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Was a Point Enough At Millwall?

It’s a win of course, we need a win. I think I’ve got to walk a tight line in terms of us to be bottom of the league going to Millwall, who’ve won 7 games out of 9, unbeaten in 9, won their last 3. For me to say to our guys that a point is not enough, this is not enough, I think I’d probably end up losing them. So, I’ve got to be realistic.

There isn’t a team in our league that goes to that place and has an easy 90 minutes, we certainly didn’t. But, at least we know we fought it. Second half we defended too deep, didn’t attack enough, trying to hold on to the 1-0 that we had, hold on to the 3 points. Then it’s always a long 45 minutes, so that would be my only criticism.

I think the last three performances, you’re looking at a team that are fighting for each other, having a go. But, of course, we need the win, we need three points. But, the more we talk about it and the more we make of it, sometimes the harder it is to get it. We’ve just got to keep trying to perform as we best as we can and try to get that elusive three points.

In terms of the performance, for us to go to Millwall, we got a point, we had a scrap, we had a fight. I can’t have too many complaints with the players, to say that’s not enough. My only complaint would be that we never attacked enough in the second half, we tried to sit on it and that doesn’t work.

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On Showing Potential for Survival...

There has to be, we don’t have any choice with where we are. We’ve got 11 games, 33 points and we’re 4 points from where we need to be, come the last game or after the last game. That’s not insurmountable, yeah bottom of the league, another weekend we’re bottom of the league, we didn’t win. So, yeah, of course you sense it, you smell it, you can feel it in the air.

But, 33 points, we’re still in there with a big, big chance. Hence me saying that the performances in the last three games, that’s it, that’s what we need and that’s what were we’re looking for. More of that, because in the games before that I was a lot more nervous. I couldn’t put my finger on, I couldn’t hang my hat on 90 minutes, which is worrying. I think the last three games, that’s different and we need to continue that.

Each game as it comes, same mentality, same state of mind going into it. Whether it’s Millwall or Villa, they’ll pose different problems to us. But, we’ve got to stay the same, stand strong, stay together and get through it.

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On Squad Members Surviving Previous Relegation Battles...

Yeah, I think for all of the lads that have been in this situation and not all of them would have. I think we forget as well, we’ve got O’Shea and Catts who have been in this situation. Lee Camp has been in this division in that situation, with various teams. But, then we’ve got Joel Asoro, Josh Maja and Ashley Fletcher, these are young, only 18, 19 and 22. Very young and very inexperienced. George Honeyman really, he’s played more this season than he’s ever played and had more responsibilities. Lynden Gooch, when he’s been a part of it.

A lot of players who are in there that have never really been in it, so there’s a bit of a mixture. The more experienced ones have been really good with how they’ve been dealing with everyone else, taking responsibility for where we are. In their approach they’ve been very, very good.

We still always think Sunderland Football Club, we tend to forget when we look at the team sheet who we’ve got and the inexperience we’ve got in certain areas, also. But, we’ve got what we’ve got and I’ve said all the way along whatever we’ve got, it’s got to be enough to get us over the line.

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On the Changes of the Squad Since Coleman Took Charge...

Villa was the first game, yeah. I think a lot of it was forced on us, my first 24 hours in the building we lost Duncan Watmore, out for the season. Jonny Williams out for three months, that was my first 23 hours. I remember picking the team going to Aston Villa, thinking that we were thread bare, we had so many injuries. We lost 2-1 and we played very well on the night, we could have got something out of it.

It was a welcome back to club football and from then until now it’s been bumpy, of course it has, bumpy and uncomfortable. Things forced upon us and then you have to react, of course we lost players in the window and we needed to work very hard to bring some faces in, no transfer kitty. So, yeah, it’s been tough, it’s been a real, I wont even say rollercoaster ride, it’s been bumpier than that.

After my experience here, whenever that is and I hope it’s for some time, I’ll be better than when I arrived, for the experience. I’m certainly getting experience, I’ve been in relegation battles, it’s the first time I’ve been bottom of the league fighting my way up. You’ve got to take as much out of it as you can and try to come through the test, I’m still right in the middle of it.

We’ve shown some promise and then we’ve fallen down. When we showed a bit of promise and won a good run of games, we never built on it and that’s our own fault. I think it’s been a huge test, it is a big test, but it’s still a challenge we can overcome, we can win it.

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On the Atmosphere at the Stadium of Light...

The Middlesbrough game was different, I’ve been here, what, three months? I’ve seen both sides, I’ve seen it when we’ve been booed off and we’ve deserved to be booed off and I’ve seen it when we’ve been clapped off. They’ll only come with us if we go with them and us going with them is maxing out on the pitch and not playing with fear, not being afraid. They smell that on you and then they come with you, that’s it, there’s no other explanation.

They were great with us against Boro. So, we’ve got a game tomorrow night where we’re going up against a team 20 odd places above us going for automatic promotion. Both teams are fighting for very different things, but forget Aston Villa, its about Sunderland, it’s about us, how we approach it.

Are we going to try and sneak our way through it and try to get lucky or are we going to impose ourselves and take the game to them? Then that’s a positive step and if we do that, however many fans we’ve got in the stadium, they’ll be with us for sure, 100%.

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Will the Players Rise to the Challenge?

They’ve got it in them and they’ve got to do it. Whether it’s Millwall away or Villa at home, it doesn’t matter to us now who we’re playing. We’ve got to have that same siege mentality and we’ve been written off, whoever thinks we can’t get away from where we are, those are the opinions that we have to challenge and we have to keep believing in ourselves.

It’s Aston Villa, it’s at home, they’re all tough, for different reasons. But, our biggest obstacle for me, of course I’m not speaking arrogantly, can’t afford to do that where we are, but our biggest obstacle is us, it’s us. Getting over psychological barriers, home or away it doesn’t matter, it’s just us. Imposing ourselves, taking the game to the opposition, because when we do that we have chances in games to come out victorious. It’s just when we go the other way and we get nervous, everyone gets nervous, people get frustrated and then it’s a long 90 minutes.

I don’t enjoy them ones, I enjoy Millwall, I enjoy Bolton, I enjoy Middlesbrough. I didn’t get the results, we didn’t get the three points, but we got performances that was more like a team that we’re playing as a team and that’s the important thing for us.

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On Lewis Grabban’s Return...

I’m not worried about Lewis Grabban. I’m more worried about Sunderland and I’m more worried about us and I’m more worried about us performing.

Villa have got a host of talent, I know some of their players very well, obviously James Chester, Neil Taylor, good players, good lads, real good guys in the dressing room, they’ve got a host of talent.

I’m not worried about one player, I’m more worried about us and making sure we get ourselves right for the game, mentally.

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On Steve Bruce...

Brucey? Yeah, I know him very well, yeah. He will have sat here many times. I’ve played against him and we’ve been in opposite dugouts, I know Steve very, very well. I think if you look up Brucey’s record in this league, I don’t think there’s anybody that’s got teams out of this league as many times as he has. It’s an incredible record, I think four times he’s done it, it’s unbelievable that, he could do it five times.

I hope he does, obviously not after tomorrow night, good luck to him and I hope he goes on to do it for the fifth time, he’s a good man, Steve.

AFC Telford United v Aston Villa: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

How Things Have Changed Since Steve Bruce’s Years...

Yeah, of course, times have changed, haven’t they? Again, whenever he was here, there have been some managers since, but that’s all the past for him and for me. It’s all about the future, it’s all about tomorrow night.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

On Middlesbrough Doing Us a Favour...

Well, I think if you look at, there’s a lot said about Traore having his red card rescinded, we were all scratching our heads why. But, actually, it’s not a bad thing for us because he’s a good player and he’s playing against the teams in and around us. Boro are still going for the play offs you know, Millwall are only 6 or 7 points away from the playoffs, we play Villa tomorrow night, a tough run of games that we’ve had.

But, we’ve been in the games, in the challenges. At this stage you’re looking at other teams, can they do you a favour? You’ve got to be in charge, we’ve got to pick enough points up ourselves and then hope that when the other teams around us lose, we’ve picked up our points, we’ve done our business. Unless we win some games, it doesn’t really matter what the opposition are doing above us because they’re above us anyway. They’re 3 or 4 points away from us anyway, so we’ve got to win our games.

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On Speaking to Steve Bruce About Sunderland...

I never spoke to Brucey, no. The only person I spoke with was Reidy, Peter Reid, who I know very well, as well. But, no, I never had a chat with Steve about this position.

My first game was Villa, so we had a chat afterwards and he told me it’s a great club, great fan base, great club. All the things I knew, he didn’t have a bad word to say about the club. Look, in our industry, it’s inevitable that if you manage for 10 or 20 years, you’re going to get the sack sooner or later, unless you’re Pep Guardiola or someone like that. So, he never had a bad word to say about Sunderland though, he said it’s a super club with a super fan base.

Aston Villa v Peterborough United - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

On Lewis Grabban Leaving...

Well, he actually never came to me, he went to see our Chief Executive. As we understood it, he cancelled his accommodation and then had a conversation with our Chief Executive to say that the time was up.

I didn’t have a problem because Lewis has to look out for Lewis Grabban, if he’s got opportunities to play elsewhere for teams that are fighting for promotion. But, I never had that conversation with him, he never came to see me, it was with Martin.

It’s gone, its finished, I’ve said all the way along that the boys we got now want to be here, whatever happens, they want to be here. We play good or we play bad, they’re still the same ones that don’t miss training, they don’t miss games. These boys want to be here and these are the boys that are going to keep us up, not the lads who have left and gone to do what they want to do.

As far as I’m concerned, we’ve got what we’ve got, the boys want to be here and I’m happy to work with them.

Aston Villa v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

On the Importance of the Fans Knowing About the Commitment of the Players...

I think in our industry, supporters are probably the last to know exactly what happens, that’s just how it is. Especially this club, they need to know, look at Saturday, we’ve had all that bad weather and we take 2,000 fans down to the capital, long, long way for us to travel. 2,000 fans we had there, brilliant.

That’s the type of club this is and the other side to it is that you can’t disappoint them. If you come here you’ve got have a bit of courage, you’ve got to have a bit of personality and you’ve got to be prepared that sometimes even doing the hard yards and it’s going wrong, you’re going to get criticised. If you can’t handle that, you can’t be here. The good side is, if you please them, you give them something to shout about then it’s a great place to be.

Sunderland’s probably not for everyone, it’s not easy, especially where we are. But, me being probably the eternal optimist, I still always think, if we’re taking 2,000 fans to Millwall and we’re bottom of the league, with all that bad weather, what would it be like when the stadium is full and things are positive? I hang onto that, that’s my thing that I keep looking at because that’s a possibility. People look at me now and think; “You’re crazy, you’re mad.” But, I think that’s a possibility somewhere down the line in the future, not now, look at us where we are now, I know. But, somewhere down the line that’s a possibility.

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